You know, the Seahawks and the Bears have a lot more in common than we'd think. Like the Bears and Eagles, the Bears and Seahawks have played each other so much they may as well be in the same division. They both met up in the playoffs last season, and both are currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. So with common ground established, we sat down with Field Gulls managing editor Danny Kelly for some lowdown on the Seahawks. They'll have their post up a little bit later this morning. Thanks, Danny!
FG: Tim Ruskell has become somewhat of the whipping boy for Seahawks fans in terms of Seattle's struggles the last few seasons, taking the blame for an aging, low-talent team. (Whether that's warranted is definitely debatable). Regardless, the club hired Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider after Ruskell left and has completely overhauled the roster. I think something like eight Ruskell-era players remain from the day 'PCJS' took over. They've gotten a LOT younger, had a few solid drafts, at least how they appear right now, and have made some pretty good free agent signings thus far. They've got a lot of cap room and will probably make a free agent splash or two this offseason as well.
In general, I think most people in Seattle really like the direction of the team and many believe that with a solid franchise quarterback in place, the Hawks could be perennial contenders. I'm not necessarily on that train, because obviously it's never that easy, but the talent upgrade on this roster has been significant in the past year and a half and I'm optimistic.
WCG: Sidney Rice was one of the receivers discussed on WCG when it comes to being a number one receiver and/or coming over to the Bears in the strange strange offseason we had. Even though he's on IR this year, what are your thoughts on Rice? Is he a one-year wonder that Brett Favre made relevant or is he capable of being the guy? On a related note, who the hell is Doug Baldwin and how has he taken over the Seahawks' receiving corps?
FG: Sidney Rice has been the real deal since the day he got to Seattle. He wowed in training camp, and has been that 'number one' guy the Seahawks offense has been missing. His talent is apparent and I don't think anyone, at this point, regrets the signing. The one drawback has been his injury issues, but overall he's an explosive, big-play receiver with a huge catching radius and the ability to draw opposing defenses' attention.
As for Doug Baldwin, he's a UDFA WR out of Stanford that, similar to Rice, showed up immediately in training camp - making big plays, getting behind the defense, and demonstrating good chemistry with Tarvaris Jackson. That has carried over to the regular season as well. He's extremely competitive and fiery, and just does the little things to be successful. He's, without a doubt, the premiere UDFA signing in the NFL this season as a rookie, and he's looking like a starter for this team for years to come.
WCG: Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks traded for him last season after it was clear Buffalo had no use for him in their new system. How much of a difference has he made since his arrival, and how has his presence helped bring along Tarvaris Jackson and the receiving corps?
FG: Marshawn Lynch took a little while to get rolling behind a bad, bad offensive line last season and for the first part of this year. He's obviously a very hard and physical runner that has actually proven to be very reliable receiving passes out of the backfield as well this season. He's an all-around talent - he's not an Adrian Peterson or Darren McFadden type but you can base your offense around him and the Seahawks have done just that in their past five or six games, with good results.
His running ability in the past few months has taken a ton of pressure off of Tarvaris Jackson, who has been battling a torn pec this season, and when the Hawks can lean on their run game, their offense is fairly efficient. Lynch has the habit of taking 'no-gains' and turning them into three or four yards, and that subtle difference often means the chains keep moving. Time of possession and ball control are two key tenets in the Seahawks' offense.
WCG: Defensively, where does David Hawthorne sit in the NFC linebackers discussion? Tell us a bit about some of the key players on the Seahawks' defense.
FG: Hawthorne is a solid, not spectacular middle linebacker that's generally assignment correct and versatile. He's one of the main leaders of the team but the young bucks are definitely making their voices heard. The safety tandem of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor has been very good this season, and cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman has surprised some people this season as well despite their size (6'4, 6'3).
The defensive line is stout - they won't get to the QB too often but they're good at stopping the run and taking that part of teams' gameplan out of the picture. Overall, the defense has improved immensely from last season and looks to only get better. Chris Clemons is a defensive end to keep your eye on, and K.J. Wright is a rookie outside linebacker that has impressed as he's taken over recently-traded Aaron Curry's spot.
WCG: You're probably as sick of talking about it as we were of Cutler's knee injury, but when the Seahawks won the division last year at 7-9, there was a lot of discussion about the NFL's playoff system and that a 7-9 team shouldn't even be in the playoffs, much less hosting a game against a 10-win wild card. Did you feel like the Seahawks validated their position by beating the Saints in Seattle, or did they have to validate it at all?
FG: Oh, I would say it definitely HELPED that they won and made it easier to rationalize that situation. Now, its not their fault that the NFC West just so happened to suck so completely hard, and I don't think one anomalous year should mean a wholesale change in the NFL's playoff system, but it was definitely a laughable scenario. Of course, then the Seahawks did the unthinkable and beat the Saints, proving that anything can happen once the playoffs begin. I don't think there's any reason to change the playoff structure though, especially considering the NFC West is much less laughable this season.
WCG: Bonus question. Predict the outcome and we'll send you a peppermint.
FG: 16-13, Seahawks. It's going to be a slugfest!
Thanks again Danny for your time!